Portsmouth advice centre to lose out in council property sell-off

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PORTSMOUTH’S Citizen’s Advice Bureau is fearing for its future after the city council decided to put its headquarters up for sale.

The CAB building – Dugald Drummond House – is to be sold off along with the nearby Greetham Street car park.

And the authority has told the CAB that when it moves to a new site the council will no longer be able to subsidise its rent.

Charity chief executive Lynne Davies said this would remove the last bit of financial support offered by the council, following the withdrawal of funding last year.

She said combined with legal aid cuts due to come in next year, the advice service’s future was in doubt.

‘Charities are going through tough times and the truth is none of us knows what the future holds,’ she said

‘This will create new challenges for us – we are already spending a considerable amount of our time looking for new funding sources.

‘The government’s welfare reforms are under way and we estimate that 55 per cent of effects are yet to be seen. So the demand for advice has grown and will continue to grow. One of the things we are most concerned about is the cut to legal aid, because we are still seeing far too many people who are being found fit for work by the Department for Work and Pensions and Atos when clearly they are not. These are very vulnerable people and we don’t know where they are going to go to get legal advice.’

Tory spokesman for planning, regeneration and economic development, Cllr Luke Stubbs, said there was more of a demand than ever for the CAB’s services.

He said: ‘The CAB had a significant cut in its income and in difficult times like these its services are particularly in demand. The council needs to resolve where it can go to before selling its buildings and it needs to think very carefully about rent levels or it could easily end up putting this important service out of business.’

Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson, pictured, said the council was trying to raise money to fund other things around the city and that other services in Portsmouth had replaced the CAB.

He said: ‘The CAB have lost their main contract to provide advice. So most of the things that people went to the CAB for are now done by other people.’

But Mrs Davies said it still provides people with advice, despite losing a council contract to the You Trust last year.

She said: ‘If we were to no longer exist the other providers would have very serious capacity problems.

‘Demand is going up and the amount being spent on advice in Portsmouth is already a third of what it was just a few years ago.’